There are few fantasy novels as highly anticipated as Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen. It’s unsurprising that Chokshi’s influences include Catherynne Valente and Laini Taylor; her writing, lush and vivid, crafts a world as beautiful as the Indian folklore she pulls from.
Inspired by Indian mythology, The Star-Touched Queen takes place in a world where the stars foretold Maya’s future: death and destruction. When she marries Amar and becomes queen of Akaran, she thinks destiny could change. But Amar is hiding secrets, and as Maya’s distrust grows stronger, her actions could tear apart the worlds as they know them.
As Maya slips into the world of Akaran, she visits places sure to be added to the travel destination of any YA reader: the mythical marketplace of the Night Bazaar, a hall where each mirror leads into a different world, a room where Maya can reach out and touch the stars, a garden of plants made entirely of glass.
But most of the worlds came from Chokshi’s imagination.
“When I started thinking about the palace of Akaran, I thought about the intersections of places. How can a kingdom be everywhere at once? Oh, well it’s a shifty beast of a place, that’s how! Hence, the nods to portal fantasies and castles in the sky.”
Chokshi doesn’t claim to be an expert on the Indian mythology that inspired her – most of what she pulled came from her own cultural experiences – but one of the beautifies of working with Indian myths and folklores are that they differ drastically depending on the region of India you pull from.
“There’s a thousand ways to explain them, a thousand ways to reinvent them. If readers want to know more, check out the Amar Chitra Katha comic books! I loved them when I was younger. They were a good foundation for storytelling, wonderfully accessible, and always entertaining.”
At the heart of Akaran is Amar, a swoony and mysterious king whose unique responsibilities and burdens weigh heavy on his shoulders. He’s a little anxious, a little prideful, and careful with his power – and he expects his partner to do the same.
“[Amar is] someone who considers his partner an equal in every way, and he deeply respects that. But, as the reader finds out, having high-expectations for your partner isn’t always good.”
When Chokshi isn’t writing, she’s been working on a series of The Star-Touched Queen inspired makeup. She wanted to show readers how she envisioned some of the fantastical beings in the star-touched queen, from nakaras to asparas.
“Makeup is so wonderfully transformative that it lets me get out of my headspace and play with an idea in a new medium,” said Chokshi. “The creatures that inspired me the most have to be apsaras, the celestial dancers/heavenly nymphs. I was classically trained in bharatanatyam dance for almost 10 years. Watching those dances still feels like poetry and it’s never stopped inspiring me even though I no longer practice.”
Though Chokshi wishes she “could do a full-body nagini look, complete with a fashionable serpent tail… maybe one day.”
The Star-Touched Queen releases on April 26.
“This book has cruel stars and friendly demons, magical fruits and shadowed paths. It’s a tale about defining who you are. This is the book of my heart. I hope it finds a home in yours.”
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